The U.S. electrical grid is profoundly vulnerable to the point of being primed for catastrophic failure, speakers told a recent gathering at the Texas State Capitol.

Their fears are founded in the potency of electromagnetic pulses (EMP), which are intense bursts resulting from solar-caused effects or manmade nuclear and pulse-power devices, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Nuclear EMP has the most ubiquitous effects, according to a report by DOE, because of the combination of its broadband nature and large area coverage. No longer restricted to movies like “Ocean’s 11” or episodes of “Star Trek,” EMPs are considered a real threat and have been studied by the departments of energy and defense for decades.

“The bulk power generation and transmission system—grid for short—is one of the wonders of the world. It is so reliable that we take it absolutely for granted,” said Frank Gaffney, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy. “But the fact that this contraption, if you will, was built—like the Internet— with essentially no regard whatsoever for security and the possibility that there may be forces at work – whether they’re hostile powers or whether they’re forces of nature that will disrupt this … system is an invitation to disaster.”